How to Hold On to Little Moments (Day 30)

I watch my mom with my kids as they climb up and then fly down the slide, their pants leaving dust trails on the shiny metal curve at Coryell Parkjust off the country road.  Trucks barrel by, leaving a new layer of dust for the next kids to come visit the playground.  

In the middle of nowhere between Auburn and Johnson, Nebraska, this place conjures memories of birthday parties, church hayrack ride bonfires, and time exploring with my sister on the old bridges, life-size play house, and small-yet-beautiful chapel.  

Being here as an adult feels serene, as I watch my own children giggle, rocking back and forth on metal animals welded to old bendy spirals with paint worn off.  They creak with every buck back and forth, showing age, yet working all the same, in this well-maintained, time-warp space.  

As I smell the leaves and hear their laughter, I get this feeling (that I often get) that I need to bottle this.  I reach for my phone in my back pocket–but stop myself, wondering how I can ever be present in these fleeting, beautiful moments.    
So I do the only thing I can do, and say a prayer of thanks.

And in the gratitude, something shifts and the leaves, the goodness, the children shine in a new way, a deeper way, an alive way, and I sense I am not experiencing it alone.  

I’m experiencing it with.  

And suddenly there’s no need to bottle, or Snapchat, and re-create the Deep Goodness because I am a part of It, interacting with IT, reminded how I always have been, as much as I would like to pretend otherwise, running in all directions.  

So as we finish up this 30-day challenge, I’m thankful for That, and for what’s starting.  We never really know what’s next, the things coming tomorrow and the next day.  But look around, this moment, right now, this is.  Say thanks for the people, for the giggles, for the meal you just had–even if it was a rushed-by train wreck.  Because this, this is the life we get, the beauty and the mess.  

Tomorrow another truck will come by and fling new dust on the slipper slide.  But today we get to leave our mark.  And not our mark on the world so much as our mark on each other.  We get to etch life in memory, love in the daily.

So get up.  Climb up the steps.  Forget that phone for a bit; you can dust those pants off later.  Make a mess one more time and fly down that slide and dare to enjoy even the bumpiest ride.  Enjoy the ride dear ones and say thanks.

Congratulations to Krafty Kash giveaway winner: Tandreasen25 and her mom!  I don’t have contact info, so can Tandreasen please FB message me so we can get you set up for delivery?  Thanks Kashoan for this generous gift.  Thanks Curt for inspiring photography.  Thanks Gail, Renee, Danielle & Frances for stories and creativity.   And a special thanks to anyone who read along (especially you Dad).  It means a lot to me.  Love you all.  

Today’s Gratitude: First baby calf at the farm. And for these old pictures I found while sifting through old files.  May photography help us to see, instead of distracting us from seeing.  Cheers to gratitude in 2017. 🙂  

A Weekend to Reflect (Day 28 & 29)

Special thanks to Curt for sharing his photography throughout the challenge.  I love this image as we near the very end of our month together, seems so fitting.  So, either today or tomorrow, make a space for Visio Divina, Latin for “divine seeing,” a method for praying with images or other media (Tim Mooney).  Maybe enjoy a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate as you take time to enjoy some quiet.  It might surprise you what thoughts bubble up, what new thanks become visible. 

Visio Divina Questions
  1. What do you notice at first about this picture?  What jumps out at you?  
  2. Does it remind you of anything in particular?  Does it make you think ahead to something?
  3. How might this image be related to God’s continuing work in your life?  
Spend as much or as little time with this image as is helpful, and (if you like) you can jot some notes about your time in your packet or notebook.

Stumbling Our Way to Gratitude (Day 27: Guest Post from Danielle)

It is a delight to introduce you to Danielle!  She and I met through the Nebraska Writing Project (which is something life changing to check out if you are a teacher who loves words).  Reading her writing feels like you’re having coffee together, enjoying her perfect mix of humor and insight.  Not many writers capture their own voice so well–such a gift.  Today I am thankful for her reminder of how hard and yet beautiful gratitude can be.  


Full disclosure: Lately, gratitude has not been my first reaction. I feel a bit like a frazzled, cantankerous old woman who pads around in a pilling pajama set and a bathrobe muttering, “Who moved my cheese?! Why is the floor so sticky?! Who ate all the bread?! How many more questions are you going to ask tonight?!” Picture Mrs. Dubose from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird; that’s about what I look like right now.

In the last month, life has kicked my husband and me square in the shins. Some of our dear friends experienced the pain and loss of a miscarriage after years of trying to get pregnant. We had to put our beloved dog down; the same dog who has been by our side for nearly 11 years. Our dishwasher bit the dust and gave us a new water feature in our basement. My husband’s work schedule has been INSANE, and our kids have experienced a month-long holiday hangover from all the sugar, events, and general commotion of December. I’m one catastrophe away from chain smoking.
I have not handled these moments with grace and optimism. Honestly, I’ve never been a glass is half-full kind of gal. I’m more of a realist with a touch of snark. I tend to see the world as it is and then think about what I can do to make it better…and then binge on Red Vines when I realize how hard this work will be.

But I want gratitude. I long to be someone who can see bright spots in the darkness. Someone who can look at the gaping hole where my dishwasher once stood and think, I’ve got money in the bank to buy a dishwasher #soblessed. I usually stumble around in the dark for a good while stubbing my toes, cursing under my breath, before I eventually see the light.

Usually, this light–this feeling of gratitude, comes from the most unexpected of places. It comes from fifty degree weather in January in Nebraska, from hearing my kids work together to convert a dishwasher box into a rocketship, from a blueberry so perfectly plump and crisp that it snaps when I bite down on it, from seeing floods of humans marching peacefully in solidarity for marginalized peoples. These are glimmers of gratitude in dark moments. They aren’t big or deliberate; they are organic and hit me when I need them most.

The key to all of this, to experiencing these glimmers of gratitude: we must remain aware to our surroundings. We must keep our eyes open and our ears bent even in the darkness. But, I’m a realist, so I know that grief and pain and hopelessness will sometimes consume us. When my world looks akin to a raging dumpster fire, and I feel caught in the middle without escape, I turn to my tribe. My tribe is a handful of people who know me on different levels, who connect with me in different ways. These people often pull me out of the fire through funny text messages, encouraging words, or simply with coffee and their presence. We don’t need to do life on our own. When gratitude doesn’t come easy, when we find ourselves muttering in our bathrobes, stumbling through the dark–we can reach for our tribe to flip on the light when we can’t seem to find it.

Katrina Lee Photography 
Atkinson, Nebraska

***Last chance to win! The drawing for the 30-Day Gratitude Challenge (Krafty Kash Necklace pair valued at $42.00) will be posted on Monday. If you haven’t yet, comment with a name of a friend you’d like to see win along with you. All you need to do is post the name on this link.

Prescription for Gratitude (Day 26)

RX #101
Wusk, Evi Ed.D. (Not M.D.)

In addition to writing three gratitudes, take 10-20 minutes of silence or music once daily.  Avoid taking with low-level hum of life.  Can be taken with water, friends, dishes, mindless paperwork, a long commute and/or laundry.  

For Treatment of: Malaise, Ungratefulness, Eeyore-like-ness, Grumpiness, Anger, Impatience and when someone says to you, “Are you tired?  You look tired.”

Possible Side Effects:  Smiles, Peaceful Heart, Patience, Dancing and possible Giggles.

Refills: Unlimited  

1.  Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry
2. Shake it Off by Taylor Swift
3.  Jump in the Line by Harry Belafonte
4.  Roar by Katy Perry
5.  Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson
6.  I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by the Proclaimers
7.  Home by Phillip Phillips 
8.  Ho Hey by the Lumineers
9.  Budapest by George Ezra
10.  Heartbeat Song by Kelly Clarkson
11.  Geronimo by Sheppard
12.  Shut up and Dance by Walk the Moon
13.  Good to be Alive (Hallelujah) by Andy Grammar
14.  The General Specific by Band of Horses
15.  Try Everything by Shakira
16.  Brand New by Ben Rector 

Today is a Gift (Day 25: Cool Stuff from Frances)

THANK YOU Frances for creating this Bible Journaling page as part of the 30-day Gratitude challenge!  The work is beautiful, it makes me think, and it inspires thanks–three of my favorite things all happening at the same time.

I first met the artist, (the amazing) Frances, at a retreat hosted by (the also amazing) Deidra Riggs.  Or I guess I should say I met her art.  Her last name is Patterson, but in my mind she’s just Frances, like Cher or Oprah or something. 

Frances created the decor for Deidra’s event, and I was struck by the seemingly inexpensive art media that came together in a way that was beautiful and valuable.  Before Frances was thanked publicly in the event, I kept wondering, who made all this cool stuff?  

I don’t know Frances that well in real life, but to “friend” her on social media is a blessing; she’s one of my positive reasons to stay in the stream.  Her quirky way of creating things, reflecting on being a caregiver, and playing in the creation space all inspire me.  If you enjoy her stuff like I do, check out my favorite lighthearted blog post of hers where she encourages us all to take lots of pictures.  You’ll be glad you did.  


 P.S. Calling all cool people (yes, that’s you).  Amazing Deidra is having another retreat this April in Lincoln.  I will be there for the 22nd and hopefully the 21st too (fingers crossed).  At both of her former retreats I’ve been inspired, and the the people singing with hands in the air were welcoming to the Lutheran gals swaying happily in the back with hands in their pockets. 🙂  Click below for more info.  I would love to connect with you there! 

Thankful, Even in This Season (Day 24)

I pick up my four-year-old’s Minnie Mouse balled-up sock from the bedroom floor for what feels like the one millionth time.  As I uncurl the toe and fling it into the laundry basket, mere feet away, I shake my head.  How is it possible that small humans make such a big mess?  And how is it that they do this every day?  

When I start to get in this lovely frame of mind toward my kiddos, I want to remind myself of what my wise friend Carrie once said, “Each new phase with my kids is my favorite.”  Instead of hopefully looking ahead to a time without diapers or sentimentally back, trying to keep her kids from ever growing up, her aim is to enjoy them just as they are in the present season of life.   

But maybe you’re in a season that has you marking off days on the calendar, like some enormous Jell-O fluff salad that you have to push yourself through to just survive.  Been there.  Done that.  And it is not easy to keep perspective when your current reality seems like a prison you want to escape.  So what can we do?

One idea comes from an article I read where the author described her mother as a textile artist.  As I read along, a lightbulb came on as I thought, oh she’s a quilter. . . like my mom.  In all the years of machines whirring and fabrics snipping, I’d never thought of it that way.  Textile artist sounded different, like I’d been looking at something my whole life never really seeing it.  

It wasn’t that I hadn’t appreciated my mom’s quilting, but simply labeling it in a new way opened something up.  Because of this (and mom’s generosity), we now have a quilt hanging in our dining room.  I adore it.  I’d been in looking a piece of “art” for that wall for so long, never finding the right thing.  Who knew the perfect piece was in our house the whole time?  

Sometimes we’re so close to the amazing stuff we don’t realize it’s amazing.

So how are you labeling this season?  Are you always looking forward. . . once I have that baby, once I get married, once I get the promotion, once the flowers start blooming again, once I finish my degree. . . The truth is we will never arrive.  Life is change.  Life is growth.  So what would it look like to simply live this season and say thanks–even for this?  This house.  This job (or lack thereof).  This age of kids in my family.  This season of grief or pain.  This empty nest.  

This one millionth balled-up sock on the floor.

What would it look like to see this season in its best light and label it that way in my thoughts?  Not just a quilter, but a textile artist.  Not pre-school chaos, but two little explorers filled with wonder.  And yes in every season there is a version of the mess, but it’s easier to pick up that sock realizing that someday the hamper and so many things will be emptier.  

And it’s not a simply sentimental “You’re gonna miss this,” type of thing, but a deep knowing that for now, this balled up sock and the toys strewn around are good, just where they need to be, right here, right now.  In this amazing time to say thanks for all the gifts hiding right in front of our eyes.

by Holly Steffens
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A Way to Be Here (Day 23)

“The voice within you is the loudest voice of which I speak, because it is the closest to you. . . It is the radar that sets the course, steers the ship, guides the journey if you but let it.  It is the voice which tells you right now whether the very words you are reading are words of love or words of fear.  By this measure can you determine whether they are words to heed or words to ignore.” – Neale Walsch

Love and fear.  I was struck by this book section this week.  I guess I was struck by a lot of things this week; maybe you were too.

The author goes on to write that all things have either an undercurrent of love or one of fear.  Either/or type of thinking isn’t always my cup of tea, but this idea helps me.  This week I wanted to quit Facebook, and I felt magnetically drawn to it, so much love, so much fear.  Headlines framed the same events in polar opposite directions, almost shouting, making it hard to listen and understand toward actions that matter.

So when you don’t know what to do, I guess you look around for something to do.  My car floor was filled with winter debris, and it looked halfway warm outside, so I set to work.  As I vacuumed out my car with an old Bob Seger CD blasting through doors open, the unexpected Nebraska sun warmed my skin.  I looked up thankful for my cooped-up kiddos getting to play outside, but still felt up and down toward the larger shifts going on beyond my small-town L-shaped drive.  

Something about vacuuming the car feels like living thanks even when things seem all over the place.  It wasn’t special or grand, but it was something good to do.  

So what’s the good that needs doing this week?  And not just chores stuff, but real stuff that matters to other people.  Maybe you have a way of greeting people heartily.  Maybe you can bring a laugh to tense meetings.  Maybe you make some serious Monster cookies.  Maybe you can sit in rooms filled with pain, rooms that would cause many to run.  Maybe you get your kids ready in the morning and somehow always find a way to shift their sleepy whines to smiles.  Maybe you make music.  Maybe you offer a devotion to get your team at work started with an intentionally different tune.  Maybe you organize people for causes that matter or make art that brings people together.  Maybe you share e-mails to friends that lighten their days and their hearts.  

Whatever the good is, make it this week.  If you’re not sure how or what might help, go a little slower to listen, get quiet and create some margin, even if it’s just five silent minutes at lunch.  It’s hard to hear with the current.  We can’t just hope it’ll stop. We must physically paddle to the shore and make a quiet space to listen for the Still Small Voice.  It is always there, quietly whispering love under the noise, waiting patiently, speaking truth to fear in the most creative and unexpected ways.  What might it be saying to you today in this time, in this place?

Click here or here to print off the 30-day challenge workbook.  To get posts delivered to your in-box, subscribe below.  Thanks!

Some Weekend Respite (Day 21 & 22)

Thanks again to Curt for sharing an image for this weekend’s gratitude.  Either today or tomorrow, make a space where you can try some Visio Divina, Latin for “divine seeing,” a method for praying with images or other media (Tim Mooney).  Maybe enjoy a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate as you take time to enjoy some quiet.  It might surprise you what thoughts bubble up, what new thanks become visible. 

Visio Divina Questions
  1. What do you notice at first about this picture?  What jumps out at you?  
  2. Does it remind you of anything in particular?  Does it make you think ahead to something?
  3. How might this image be related to God’s continuing work in your life?  
Spend as much or as little time with this image as is helpful, and (if you like) you can jot some notes about your time in your packet or notebook.

A Deeper Relationship Through (Day 20: Guest Post by my friend Gail)

I am honored to introduce you to Gail.  The first time I met her I was struck by her sparkle.  I don’t know what else you call it; something about her just shines.  I’ve seen that sparkle shining through again recently, brighter than it’s been in awhile, and I say a prayer of thanks for healing.  Her courageous walk through complicated grief inspires me and reminds me of the deep hope that lives even when things look bleak.  I am so thankful for her friendship and her words today.  – Evi


Although I had been “all in” to fight for our marriage and our family, he had not.

My long and complicated story has multiple layers and elements.  At the start, verbal and emotional abuse began to slowly and subtly creep in to what was before a loving marriage.  I was on the receiving end.  Given my faith, a hopeful heart, and a commitment to my marriage and children, there appeared more reasons to stay than to leave.  So I stayed, though I lost sight of how small I was becoming and the effect it was having on all of us. 
Over time, greater challenges in my marriage surfaced when I inadvertently discovered startling and ugly secrets.  This time, the depth of my hurt would surely mean it was time for me to leave.  No.  My hope was too big for that and I don’t give up easily. My faith in God to work within us as we prayed together, the power of forgiveness, and the support of counseling led me to stay.  In time, I believed our relationship was healing, and that we were moving forward in positive ways.  It was only then I learned that he had not been “all in”.
So it was time stop trying to save us and begin to save myself.  With God’s arms around me, I started to navigate the painful and unfamiliar territory of divorce.  I longed for that elusive “other side,” the place where I could feel whole again.  
Then, as the phrase goes, the other shoe dropped. A week before Christmas my husband completed suicide.  I was numb and in utter shock, as this was shortly before my husband was to embark on an opportunity for treatment and healing.  I believed there was hope for him, too, on the horizon.  Now I was left calling my two precious daughters to say their dad left them.  There are no words to describe my pain or ache I felt for my daughters and so many others.  I was in deep.
Days after, I remember asking a trusted friend, “Will I ever come out of this on the other side”?   The “other side” was a safe space I had come to see as peace, light, joy, and truth.  A space I was most certainly not in.   It seemed, in fact, a place so far away that I doubted I would ever reach it. How would I get through this? Exactly how many miles was I about to travel, and with how many obstacles? I didn’t have the strength to do it.  I thought, let’s get over this already. I had my faith in God, but not in me.
In the days before the funeral, I discovered a sticky note on my bathroom mirror, placed by a close friend.  It read, 

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

Three years ago, all I could think about was getting to the other side.  It was all I longed for.  But what I am truly grateful for is what took place along the way.  I learned that my efforts to skip, or somehow go around, the hurt was not a path to healing.  I had to sit in, walk through, and feel my pain.  It was hard and I fought it sometimes. But, God provided who and what I needed, and I am forever grateful.  I learned that it wasn’t about the other side at all.  It was about the journey through the dark and muddy places where I found deeper relationship with God.  It was there where I was safe and found myself in peace, joy, light, and truth.  I have often found myself thinking, what if I would have missed all that?

Beautiful Ordinary Day (Day 19)

I shot some video on a simple morning about a two years ago, not really sure why or what for.  Waking the kids, seeing them greet each other, driving to work–all of it seemed normal, but the snow made me want to capture it.  So here’s a gratitude video of my littles (who aren’t this little any more) on a snowy morning in Sterling.  If you can’t see the embedded video above, click here.  Enjoy. 🙂 

Gratitude Challenge:  What parts of your “normal” morning could use a slower look?  What might catch your attention and inspire thanks?